Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Camden Awaits Durango Ruling; Bankruptcy Judge Set to Weigh Mill Sale Process

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Camden Awaits Durango Ruling; Bankruptcy Judge Set to Weigh Mill Sale Process

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON

ST. MARYS -- A federal bankruptcy court judge is expected to rule on a motion Thursday that will help determine the next owner of the Durango-Georgia Paper Co.

If the judge accepts the motion that specifies rules, procedures and timetables for the sale of the paper mill and its assets, the final process will begin to find a new owner and repay creditors owed money, attorneys associated with the case said.

The paper mill, Camden County's largest private employer for six decades, closed in November 2002 after declaring bankruptcy, costing more than 900 employees their jobs.

An undetermined number of vendors owed money would be at least partially reimbursed from the sale of company assets. Employees waiting for severance and vacation pay also will receive money after the mill is sold and legal fees and court costs are deducted from the settlement.

St. Marys attorney Jim Stein, who represents some of the creditors, said some who are owed money are impatient after waiting nearly 30 months. But he defended the court because the Durango bankruptcy may be the largest in Southeast Georgia history.

"This is an extraordinary bankruptcy," he said. "It's a very complicated deal."

Bankruptcy court officials said the Macon-based law firm Stone & Baxter filed the motion on behalf of the creditors. Attorneys with Stone & Baxter did not return three calls for comment or a copy of the motion.

While many creditors wait for partial repayment of money owed to them, much of the community is curious to learn who's going to be the new owner of the mill and how the property will be used.

Bob Noble, director of the Camden County Joint Development Authority, said he has met with three developers who have expressed interest in bidding on the 700-acre site near downtown St. Marys and turning it into a commercial and residential development.

"I've been contacted by ones who indicated they would bid," Noble said. …

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